posted by Kathy Merchant ON
Sep 23, 2019
Late last year, I was visiting friends in New Haven, Connecticut, where I lived before moving to Cincinnati over 20 years ago. Randomly, I spied a book called "Artists Next Door: A Great City's Creative Spirit." It was edited by a dear friend of mine, Cheever Tyler. A sentence in Cheever's introduction to the book resonated with me: "Our artists, both past and present, have helped define New Haven by being here, by working here, and by sharing their talent with us and the world."
I confess that my immediate reaction was a tad irreverent toward my former home: "New Haven," I thought, "You've got nothin' on Cincinnati." We can do this! In my mind, there was but one place to turn for the leadership of such an important initiative: ArtsWave, the nonprofit engine behind Greater Cincinnati's arts.
So I prepared a short pitch, got myself on ArtsWave President & CEO Alecia Kintner's January calendar, and dove in hoping there would be water in the pool. Little did I know that a committee led by Cincinnati Opera General Director & Cincinnati Opera CEO Patty Beggs was already fully into the design phase of an initiative we now know as the POWER OF HER. Alecia's response was "yes" if I would agree to focus the project on women throughout Greater Cincinnati. It was an easy decision.
By March, we had invited the public to nominate both legacy and contemporary leaders to be included in the book. The community's overwhelming response produced the names of nearly 200 women, many of whom were nominated multiple times. In the end, our book, titled "Imagineers, Impresarios, Inventors: Cincinnati's Arts and the POWER OF HER," will include 100 stories — many featuring organizations founded by women — that will honor 200 leading ladies.
These powerful women have created the very wave of impact that ArtsWave believes fuels community, contributing mightily to Cincinnati's cultural vibrancy expressed so well through ArtsWave's Blueprint for Collective Action for the Arts Sector.
Many of the major arts organizations that have put Greater Cincinnati on the map were founded by women. The internationally renowned Cincinnati Opera, now on the eve of its 100th birthday, was founded, in part, by philanthropist Mary Emery. Patty Beggs and Tracy L. Wilson of today's Cincinnati Opera team will be featured alongside Emery in the book. The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, founded in 1867 by Clara Baur, is among the top ten most represented colleges on Broadway. The venerable ceramics company Rookwood Pottery was founded in 1880 by Maria Longworth Storer. And then there's rock stars of yesteryear like Rosemary Clooney and Doris Day!
The arts deepen roots in our region, making it feel more like home to talented young professionals. The Cincinnati Art Museum's "Art After Dark" program is a perfect example. The event has caught on like wildfire with young adult audiences, and the organizers owe it all to the five women co-founders of the institution, who will appear in the book. People such as Diane Carr, founder of Jump Start, will be recognized for their work in preparing teachers to develop the next generation of artists in our region.
The arts enliven our neighborhoods. To find an example, you need look no further than the murals on buildings all around the region, courtesy of ArtWorks and its founder, Tamara Harkavy. Or you could look to the Kennedy Heights Arts Center and its director, Ellen Muse-Lindeman. Or D. Lynn Meyers of arts anchor Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, whose leadership as the Ruth Dennis Sawyer/Mary Taft Mahler Producing Artistic Director has been instrumental in helping the surrounding Over-the-Rhine area grow in the national spotlight from one of the nation's most dangerous neighborhoods to one of its hippest.
One of the greatest benefits of the arts is the ability to create empathy. When we experience the stories of those who are not like ourselves, we can begin to bridge cultural divides. That incredible power is why ArtsWave Board member Mary Stagaman has made a career of inclusion and diversity by design. It's why the words of poets like Siri Imani and Nikki Giovanni can resonate across cultural boundaries. It's why NrityArpana Director Anupama Mirle joined UNESCO's International Dance Council and brought World Dance Day to our region. It's how notable author Kathy Y. Wilson finds a way to convey the continuing struggle against racism. And it's how Harriet Beecher Stowe helped turn the tide of our country toward abolition with her groundbreaking novel, "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
Finally, women have led the charge in using the arts to fuel creativity and learning in our children for generations. In 1919, Helen Schuster-Martin started the Junior League Players, which is now, at 100 years old, known as The Children's Theatre of Cincinnati. Arts patron Norma Petersen spearheaded the creation of the School for Creative and Performing Arts. Emmy-nominated vocalist Kathy Wade is the co-founder and CEO of Learning Through Art, which has brought arts education experiences to over a million participants.
ArtsWave has vividly demonstrated the many ways in which the arts have an impact on the vibrancy of our community. But let's not overlook something equally fundamental: joy! Whether it is performing, visual, or spoken-word art, Cincinnati's women artists make waves of joy wherever they go.
"Imagineers, Impresarios, Inventors: Cincinnati's Arts and the POWER OF HER" will be available in June of 2020, but you can pre-order your copy here today!